Thursday, November 30, 2006

Everybody's Happy Nowadays

To St. Albans then, to see The Buzzcocks. Big Andy was already there when I arrived at East's (or Steve's, if you prefer) for our 6.30 meet-up; U2 were on the DVD player and general jollity ensuing. Into the Andy-mobile and with a Jam bootleg for company we made it up to St. Albans in no time... which was just as well because when we got there Andy appeared to forget how to drive ('oh, they're traffic lights aren't they?') and none of us could work out how to find the gig. Eventually we found it- and what an excellent venue The Arena is. The first band were on when we arrived- I think they were called Age of Sin and I'm sure I heard one of them say that he had a 'day off school tomorrow'. Hmm... next up were Husk; our collective, one line revue- 'Husk- er, don't'.
9 o'clock and it's Buzzcocks time- Diggle with a pint of what I imagine was sparkling wine on top of his amplifier just waiting to fall off (it did), Shelley a little heavier that I remember him (mind you, who isn't?) and Tony Barber the archetypical punk bassist. Don't know the new drummer's name but he sounded fine. They started with 'You Tear Me Up' and 'Jerk' before a considerable number of what I assume were new songs. We're close enough to see the words STEVE DIGGLE written in felt pen on a piece of white gaffa tape stuck across the 'Marshall' logo on his amp- he's smiling a lot and winking at the girl in front of me (I hope!!). They sound great, just how they always did really. Most '2-guitar bands' work with the guitarists playing in different areas of the neck i.e. if they're playing say an 'A' chord one will play the open chord with the other playing a barred chord. Not so The Buzzcocks- much of their distinctiveness comes from the fact that Shelley and Diggle are both playing the same chord shapes much of the time. Interesting eh? Anyway things are really hotting up with 'Love You More', 'You say you don't love me' (someone really ought to do a cover version of that) and 'Moving Away from the Pulsebeat' when... they've gone. The audience is confused- where are all the singles? Suddenly a voice over the P.A. says something like 'this is a 2 set show, there will be an encore after the second set' so we all wander back into the bar.
10 minutes or so later and with little or no fanfare they're back with more unfamiliar material- Diggle sang one called 'Soul Survivor' which sounded pretty good but by now you got the feeling that most people wanted to hear something that they knew. Eventually we got our reward for being good- Diggle's into his third pint for 'Why She's a Girl from the Chainstore?' and he's getting madder and madder; East misses 'What Do I Get?' due to his umpteenth pint (!) and 'Fast Cars' sounds like it was written yesterday. By the time they encore with 'Harmony in my Head' and- of course!- 'Ever Fallen in Love...' they've won by miles; 'Orgasm Addict' finishes us (and them) off completely. Diggle's thrown his mikestand into Shelley's and jumped into the audience. If he'd grinned any wider the top of his head would have come off.

A great gig. Get a buzz, cock.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To Bath!!

I'm in the shop today. Pre-Christmas tension is rising- Fender have just been on the phone asking if they can deliver 2 pallets of guitars tomorrow.

Of course they can. I can't wait.

And I've just had my Andy C. on the phone (that's him next to me in the 'Price 2006 line-up' photo on our website). He's outside a secondhand shop in Bath. In the window there's an advert for guitar tuition from a local teacher. Beginners to advanced. Says he's 'ex-Dr. Feelgood, ex-Yardbirds'. That'll be Gypie Mayo then.

GYPIE MAYO! One of my HEROES! To the M4 immediately!!

I'm going to see The Buzzcocks tonight with East and Big Andy. Steve Diggle on guitar- punk rock guitar hero extraordinaire.

I've just checked the date at the top of today's paper. It's definitely 2006- but for a few moments there it felt like it was 1979 and I was seeing both of those players for the very first time. And it was a good feeling.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Not-so-Easy (to get through to) Jet

Ever tried to claim for damage to your baggage by an airline? Hard to get through to them on the phone isn't it? And that info sheet they give you- lots of things for you (as opposed to them) to do isn't there? Intimidating isn't it?

One might- if one was being cynical- think that they make it very difficult for you to claim...

Anyway, on to more enjoyable matters. After I'd spent much of Saturday afternoon and evening either dazed, asleep or feeling somewhat lost ('I should be out gigging! I don't know what to do!' etc) we spent most of Sunday recording backing tracks for an album that we're putting together to sell at gigs and on our soon-to-be-unveiled new website. Just the rhythm section today- myself on guitar, John on drums and Squirrel on bass with Pete on guide vocals (i.e. just singing along so that we know where we are in the song; him and Michael will add their parts along with the rest of the band at a later date). A very productive day saw us record 10 backing tracks which is good going by anybody's standards. I was using a Vox AC30 (thanks Joe!) which sounded superb and we all played live at a considerable volume with energy a-plenty and much good humour all round. A cracking day.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Swiss time line


4 a.m. My alarm just gone off. Bugger. Shouldn't have gone out last night.

5 a.m. Gary and myself are on our way to Richard's where we're meeting the rest of the band. From there we go to Luton airport and from there we go to Switzerland, for a show tonight in Fribourg. No, I don't know where it is either.

6.30-ish We're all checked in and ready to rock. Or to fall asleep. Or both. Squirrel's bass and my guitar have been checked into Outsize Baggage. More about that later.

7.35 a.m. Take off. Goodnight.

9 a.m. Land at Basel Airport. Or rather-

10 a.m. Land at Basel Airport. They're an hour ahead of us.

10.30 a.m. Leave the airport through the wrong exit. We're in France. We want to be in Switzerland. Help!

10.35 a.m. Leave the airport through the correct exit. Meet Anja and Roman who are looking after us whilst we're here. Have they got a job on their hands or what?!?

11 a.m. Check in at the Hotel Ibis. I've got room 204. Turn the T.V. on- the weather man's wearing a military uniform. Excellent.

11.15 a.m Sleep. Easily.

12.30 p.m. My alarm's just gone off. Bugger.

12.45 p.m. Leave for venue. Fall asleep on the way- wake up near a place called Wankdorf. Panic. Fall asleep again- wake up as Gary says 'look at that church in the field. First the sheep, then forgiveness'. Panic again, then (perhaps unsurprisingly) can't get back to sleep.

2.15 p.m. Arrive at the Forum in Fribourg, except that here it's spelt Frebourg. Oh well.

2.30 p.m. Meet the people from Swatch watches- it's their event that we're playing at. There's 2000 guests which means we're playing in a very big hall. Should be good.

3-ish Sound check. I've got a Fender Twin Reverb combo to play through which should sound great, but doesn't. May need an overhaul (the amp that is not me). Pity.

4.30 p.m. Go into town to find some food and look around. It's a splendid little town where no restaurants open until 6 p.m.- we're on at 7.30. Curses. Go for a drink instead. Not all bad news then.

6 p.m. Meal at restaurant at the venue. Swatch man gives us all watches. Hurrah!

7.45 p.m. First set. Dancing starts in our opening number, by the third the dancefloor's full and in 'Flip Flop and Fly' Michael dances on stage with someone he later describes to me as a 'mad oriental female'. The set ends with a near riot.

9.15 p.m. Second set. More mayhem. Encore with 'Jailhouse Rock' to audience scenes reminicent of those in 'A Hard Day's Night'. Excellent. Back in the dressing room they've given us low alcohol lager. And fruit salad. Healthy, but not necessarily what we were hoping for.

10.30 p.m. Go to put my guitar away but can't find it. Panic. Find it's already in it's case. Very helpful people the Swiss!


12.30 a.m. Arrive back at hotel. Sleep. Easily.

7 a.m. My alarm's just gone off. Bugger.

7.30 a.m. Breakfast. Piped dance music nearly induces dementia, particularly amongst members of the horn section.

8.15 a.m. Leave for the airport.

8.30 a.m. Arrive at the airport. Check in (Gary- 'oh no, they don't let you take guns on planes anymore'). Squirrel's bass and my guitar have been checked into Outsize Baggage. More about that later.

10.05 a.m. Take off. Can't sleep. Bugger.

11-ish Talk to Gary about our upcoming recording session, and about the time he was in a plane and one of the engines caught fire. Prefer the first part of the conversation.

11.45 a.m. Land at Luton Airport. Or rather-

10.45 a.m. Land at Luton Airport. Remember the time difference?

11.30 a.m. Collect baggage. Guitar case looks open. Or broken.

11.31 a.m. It's broken. Start swearing.

11.33 a.m. Complain. Fill in form. Continue swearing, then calm down (a bit).

11.45 a.m. Leave airport. It's POURING down with rain, and some bastard's put a bloody great hole in my guitar case. Not good, frankly. Resume swearing. Welcome home.

P.S. Someone's put a few clips from this gig on youtube- I've a horrible feeling that they think we're the real Blues Brothers! I haven't worked out how to put a hyperlink (I think that's what they're called- you know, the bit that you click on to go to another web-site) on here yet but if you put something like BLUES BROTHERS IN FRIBOURG into the 'search' bit of then you should find us. Excellent!

Monday, November 20, 2006

'Watson- the needles!!'

Monday 20th November 10.36 a.m.-ish and I've finally got a chance to look back on the past few days in mad guitar-land. Let's hope I can read my scribbly notes...

Last Thursday we played at the Worthing pavilion, a 'proper seaside building' as Malcolm described it. He used to be in a band with me, as did Paul. But more about them in a minute. We -Richard, Gary and myself- arrived at the venue a few minutes after the rest of the lads but just in time to help load everything in (curses!). Soundcheck went well with us running through 'Funky Nassau' which is set to return to the show after a considerable absence, and a bit of work on 'My Girl'- mostly tightening up the ending. Then it's upstairs to the dressing room to discuss tactics for the next few months and to look at some excellent new poster designs. Phone reception's not too good so I walk down the road to give Malcolm & Paul their 'where are you and where shall we meet' calls. Malc lives a few minutes walk away and Paul's on the train from Hove so it's time for some chips before meeting Malcolm and his mate Mark outside the venue. Paul's there in no time with Jack (his girlfriend Cathy's son) so it's off to the bar before showtime. There's a fair sized crowd and they're well into it pretty much from the word go- the sound's good, costume changes go well and we play one of our best versions yet of 'Green Onions'. I found myself to be quite nervous with my former (sometimes current- hello Price fans!) bandmates but when Paul raved at me about my selection of guitar hero poses (Poses? What poses?!?) I realised that I'd been worrying unduly; Malcolm wasn't so enthusiastic but he never is!
After everything's packed away the rest of the band's off for something to eat but I walk over to the pedestrian shopping area to meet my buddies in the Warwick pub. As I get there Malc's just started singing 'Somewhere over the rainbow' on the karaoke and he sounds great. Then again, he usually does.

Friday morning and breakfast's at a Little Chef just outside Littlehampton, opposite a large oriental-looking building. Strange... a mad drive in the heavy rain get us to Southampton in time to get the midday ferry to the Isle of Wight. I spoke to my Dad on the phone- both him and my Mum were in the Merchant Navy together and sailed from Southampton many times so it was a nice thought to be doing the same, albeit on a rather smaller vessel and on a considerably shorter journey. As we left we passed the QE2- I guess that if they'd been in the Navy now that's what they'd have been on.
Arriving on any island always reminds me of the scene in the Wicker Man' where Edward Woodward's character flies into Summerisle though thankfully that's where the comparison normally ends... then it's a drive across to Ventnor where we're playing at the Winter Gardens; it's raining and windy and the view from the venue out across the sea is magnificent. The P.A.'s set up and with the horn players off shopping it's time for a jam- with Pete on bass we run through those well known Blues Brothers numbers 'All Right Now' and 'Smoke on the Water' before a more serious bit of work on the 'My Girl' harmonies which even I'm involved in. Good fun.
Friday night was BBC 'Children in Need' night; this coupled with the weather and various other events on the island (including, bizarrely, a film premiere) meant that there was only about 50 people in the audience; incredibly the show went very well indeed with much dancing and jollity all round.
And now the fun bit. We were booked on the last ferry back to the mainland which left Cowes at 10.30p.m. and we finished playing at 9.15p.m. (theatre shows are often early in the evening). Astonishingly we made it- everything was packed up and ready to go by 10 to 10 including the P.A., an amazing achievement although not necessarily one to repeat again in a hurry! After a mad dash across the island and a few minutes spent in the queue for the chain ferry by mistake (that could have been embarrassing!) we were pretty much the only people on the boat home making for an oddly eerie journey back to Blighty.

Saturday was a bleary-ly busy day in the shop. Lots of time spent with Ian the Saturday boy assembling 2 cymbal trees to display Zildjian's on and plenty of customers to distract us. Great to see my old mates Paul O'Brien (who bought his Zemaitis electric in- one of the best guitars I've ever played- and is interested in a new amp), Pete Haynes (better known to the punk rock world as Manic Esso, drummer in local heroes The Lurkers), and Roger Brewer (drummer extraordinaire who I did loads of gigs with in The Informers all those years ago) though by the end of the day I felt like I was flagging a bit... no time to worry about that though as I'm off to see Robben Ford at The Mean Fiddler in London. Thanks to the usual tube train hilarity I was a bit late- by the time I met up with Stuart, Pete and Danny he'd just started. A good gig with bad sound- muddy, bassy, indistinct... and did the bass player really need 7-strings? Then again maybe I was just tired though all my buddies seemed to feel pretty much the same- a great shame since he's a terrific player.

Sunday I had a day off. I felt like I needed one.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I saw Motorhead in Oxford last night. They were, for want of a better word, fantastic. I first saw them in, I think, 1978 at Brunel University in Uxbridge, and they were fantastic then too. I've seen them a few times since then- Hammersmith Odeon, Forum etc- and, you've guessed it, they were fantastic every time.

It's nice to know that there are some things that you can rely on in life.

After an afternoon working on RADIO PRICE with Eastberg and Andy C. (most of which we spent rolling around in helpless laughter) myself and Andy travelled across to Oxford, parked up down a side road and walked into town. There's long hair, leather jackets and Motorhead t-shirts everywhere, a odd contrast with the rather sedate surroundings. Andy used to live in Oxford so knows it well, although as he led me up the worryingly-named St. Helens Passage I did wonder... however at the end and around the corner there's the Turf Tavern and an excellent pub it is too. Suitably refreshed we return venue-wards to meet up with Big Andy and his mate Gavin via the wonder of the mobile phone. The gig's at the New Theatre and there's time for a drink or two next door before going in.
9.25 and the lights go down to Lemmy's opening comments-

'How are you- alright? (audience cheers coweringly) We'll soon fix that...'

- and we're away with the first number, which I didn't know the title of. Like that matters. 'Stay Clean' was up next and by now I could feel the bass drum(s) on my chest every time they were played. Which was often. The sound's actually not that great- I know the words but couldn't understand them. The band are shouting at the monitor man and the crowd are subdued, or, more likely, shellshocked. (At the Brunel show I remember Lemmy turning his amp up several times until it was eventually on full- he still does that but now it's got MURDER ONE written on it and he turns the guitar amp up as well. Hope you're reading this Squirrel). But it gets better and by the time we get to a cover version of 'Rosalie' it's really taking off with Lemmy on good form as always ('here's a rock'n'roll song, to remind you all how good it used to be before hip-hop') and everyone playing well. By 'Killed by Death' the bass drums are loud enough to move the front half of my body; they finish with 'Iron Fist' and it's almost a relief. The encore's great- 'Whorehouse Blues' with Lemmy on harmonica and Phil & Mikkey on acoustic guitars that sound like they've been plugged straight into your ears, then the inevitable 'Ace of Spades' before 'Overkill' causes what might best be described as 'sensorary overload' with half a dozen strobe lights making you feel like your brain's come loose and the bass drums moving your entire body.

Motorhead. If they didn't exist we'd have to invent them. Fantastic.

For 3 out of the past 4 Sunday's it's been rock'n'roll central- The New York Dolls, The Who and Motorhead. It doesn't get any better than that for me. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some loud electric guitar to play...

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Imagine coming from Leatherhead. Everytime someone asks you where you live you risk getting in a fight-

'Where are you from then?'
'I only asked! What's your problem?' etc etc

Well I'd never been there before but the bits I saw of it looked ok. We were at the wittily named Leatherhead Theatre hoping- in my case at least- to erase the memories of the last few rather peculiar shows. After a few parking problems we're all present and correct and in the dressing room with Pete handing out cheques and revealing everything from recording plans to a name change for the show- as of January 1st we will be- fanfare!- The Chicago Blues Brothers. The general consensus of opinion is that 'Sweet Home Chicago' is a good name but doesn't really say what we do whereas the 'new' name makes it pretty clear... and there's already shows booked in that name for next year so we're off to a good start. There's also plans for t-shirts, CD's, hats & glasses- start saving now kids!!
Soundcheck time and I've got a new set-up to try- it's a Peavey 'Classic 30' combo with an Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 (it's short for 'Linear Power Booster'- you have to buy a pedal called that now don't you?). I always find it a bit strange playing through a new amp or pedal so changing both at the same could be a bit risky to say the least. But everyone thinks it sounds good (phew!!) though it's different enough from my old Laney combo to put me on edge a bit; add to that the fact that Karn, the manager of Pro Music (the shop I work at in Ickenham), is coming to the show and I'm finding myself to be unusually nervous.
Time to go to the pub then. The pub round the corner's called The Penny Black and is 'rough on a Friday night' according to the guy in the theatre box office. Michael and myself had no problems although it was only early... we rant and rave over the future of pop music (like we're experts!) for a half hour or so then head back to the theatre. Karn's arrived (gulp!) and everybody's ready to rock- which we do with no little success, a fine show all round with my amp sounding as good as I hoped it would and the LPB-1 turning it into a veritable fireball of sound for the solos. And Karn loved it too which was a relief- he's an excellent guitarist himself so his opinion meant a lot to me.

Mind you, if he'd hated it I wouldn't have even told you he'd been at the show.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Basildon (and on)

7.30 Saturday evening, just outside Basildon. A blindfolded man is led into a darkened room. Everybody knows why he's there, apart from him. The lights go on as the blindfold comes off. His face is a mixture of astonishment and horror. There's a loud bang. No going back now... the rest of his band play 'Happy Birthday'. Well I did my best to make it sound like something out of 'The Long Good Friday' but actually it's Glenn Sissons's 50th birthday party at the local leisure centre. His band are the splendidly named WHERE BEAGLES DARE (I think you'll agree that's a great name!) who are playing first, then we're doing our X-Commitments set. Amazingly Glenn knew nothing of all of this until they took his blindfold off- he thought he was going out for a meal. He was the bassist in The Illegal Eagles and has also played with Suzi Quatro and The Love Affair amongst others, often with our drummer John- hence our connection with him. I'd not met him before but he seemed a splendid if rather bewildered fellow. His band are good too- material ranging from U2 and Green Day to Squeeze and Joe Walsh with excellent harmony vocals from everyone in the band.
Our set was a bit... strange. Neither Squirrel or myself were going through the P.A. system so were obliged to play much louder than normal which didn't go down too well with certain band members. I must admit I rather let it ruin the gig for me which I'm really annoyed with myself about- I've done enough shows to know that these things happen sometimes but I still managed to blame myself which didn't really help my evening go well; and I've just had Squirrel on the phone checking that I'm ok so I must have looked pretty unhappy when I left.

Yeah, I'm alright. I was pretty unhappy when I left but that's mainly because I felt like I'd let myself down by getting annoyed about it all. After Wednesday's debacle in Whitehall (that sounds like a Sherlock Holmes story doesn't it?!?) I was looking forward to playing but, once again, things conspired against us. Ah well. We're playing in Leatherhead on Friday. That'll be a good one.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why-at-all? (a.k.a. 'Mr. Benn saves the day!')

Ok- after 2 great corporate shows we were due a rough one and here it is...

After a quick coffee with the legend that is Steve 'Eastberg' Holt to discuss the latest RADIO PRICE developments (see The Price website for details) I took a tube train into Charing Cross. We're playing at the Banqueting House in Whitehall at a trade union event sponsored by Thompson's Solicitors who, I'm told, are a well known legal firm. Among the likely guests are a Mr. & Mrs. Blair of Downing Street, along with other M.P.'s, journalists etc. In one of the earlier posts ('Up on the roof') I remark how we take our surroundings for granted- in that case St. Paul's cathedral; in this case Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, The Houses of Parliament... what a tourist I must have looked, wandering around with my guitar on my back.
The Banqueting house is opposite Horseguards Parade- we're playing in the hall upstairs. It's big- the ceiling must be 60-odd feet high (apologies to younger readers but I still think in feet & inches!), not good for sound... I meet up with the rest of the lads who all look a bit worried about things. As Squirrel remarked, 'you have to put a different head on' i.e. it's not a 'gig', it's something you're playing at. As if to underline this fact I spotted a suited lady walking towards the stage- she was looking at the drum kit like she was looking down the barrel of a flamethrower. You've guessed it, she's one of the organisers. She asks if we can put screens around it or cover it or something, we can't have people seeing it, these sort of things are fine at a pop concert but not in a place like this. We soundcheck- it's echo-ey, too loud, the drums sound like bombs going off, the suited lady looks suicidal as does Geoff (Jeff?) behind the mixing desk... we turn down but it still sounds bad... it's going to be a long night.
There's a jazz quartet playing before us; they're soundchecking at around a tenth of our volume when our suited lady friend asks the keyboard player 'does this have to be on the stage?' whilst pointing at his keyboard. At this point I decided it was time to leave.
You may be aware that in Denmark Street, just off Charing Cross Road, there's a very high concentration of musical instrument shops. What better way to cheer myself up than to spend some time there looking at things that I don't need, can't afford and will never own but that are nice to at least be in the same room as. And it works- sort of... somewhere in the course of my wandering around I manage to 'put a different head on' and decide to get back to the venue and get on with it. I'm lucky to be able to play guitar, to be in the band I'm in, to do what I do when I do it- it's just hard to remember that sometimes!!!
Back at the Banqueting House the evening becomes not only worthwhile but, for me at least, unforgettable. I'm back in the building a couple of minutes when I meet Tony Benn, the 'veteran' Labour M.P. and in my vastly bigoted opinion one of the most interesting political figures of our times. And what a gentleman he was- 'what do you do with yourself young man?' he asked in that unmistakable voice of his. Leaving aside the fact that anybody who calls me 'young man' goes straight onto my Christmas card list, it was great that he was interested in me- I wonder how many other politicians would have preferred to talk about themselves? I mumbled something like 'I'm a musician' and before I could say anything else he said 'Of course you know what happened here don't you? They carried King Charles the first out of the window and beheaded him. Makes you think doesn't it? Not that I'm in favour of capital punishment you understand'. All I could think of as a reply was 'don't tell this lot that or they'll do it to us' which amused him greatly- fortunately Gary came over and rescued me before I went completely mad.
Up in the main hall the jazzer's are doing their best but with only us clapping or for that matter noticing that there's somebody playing live music in the room it's something of an uphill struggle. Mind you as previously discussed that's the nature of a night like this- they're not there to watch a band. Still there's plenty of people in with lots of faces that we recognise- isn't that the bloke off of the telly that does the political stuff? And was that John Prescott earlier? Could have been... my Mum & Dad were at sea with him- I wonder if he remembers them? No sign of the Blair's either, though maybe that's just as well.
9.15-ish and it's our turn. And as we start 'Peter Gunn' half the people leave. As usual. But the ones that are there seem to enjoy our efforts- there's a bit of applause and, eventually, dancing. We even squeeze an encore out of 'em. Just. After packing away and loading out it's time for the tube home. Trafalgar Square looks even better at night and, if anything, is even busier than earlier. There's police outside the tube station- something's gone on, or gone off. As I walked through the station entrance 2 young ladies wearing witch's hats crossed my path.

I wonder if that's lucky?